LONDON (Reuters) - The eligible bachelor is back in singer Usher’s new album “Raymond v. Raymond,” which he sees an expression of his struggle to balance life in the fast lane with his commitments as a family man and father.
Last year the 31-year-old R & B star, one of the world’s top-selling musicians, filed for divorce from the mother of his two young sons, and feelings of anger, guilt and relief filter through the music on his latest record. So too does a celebration of being single again, placing Raymond v. Raymond somewhere between his 2004 hit “Confessions” and the more subdued, though less successful follow-up “Here I Stand” that followed his 2007 marriage to Tameka Foster.
“Here I Stand was a very personal album, it was very honest, there wasn’t that much drama because I was in a happy place, I was married, I had children and (was) really coming of age,” Usher told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The five-time Grammy award winner had been due to give interviews in London this week, but the flight ban over Europe caused by volcanic ash prevented him traveling.
“That same acceptance of coming of age is in this album, it’s just a different story,” he added.
“I’m no longer married, and the reality of sustaining and balancing the celebrity that I am and the individual that I’ve grown to be is what Raymond v. Raymond is all about. If I had to put it short, I’d say Raymond v. Raymond is a little bit of Confessions and a little bit of Here I Stand.”
In “Papers,” Usher seems to be addressing his divorce with the line: “I’m ready to sign them papers, papers, papers.”
And in “Foolin’ Around” the singer appears contrite, singing “And the games I played, mistakes I made/Leave me sorrier than you’ll ever know” before adding: “Blame it on celebrity.”
Yet “Pro Lover” features the lines “I profess I’m a lover, minor scholar of anatomy/Doctor of feminine chemistry.”
Usher said his decision to sing about personal issues was partly a comment on people living “vicariously through sensationalism” in the form of celebrity gossip.
“That became kind of an underscore for this album, because it seemed like the main topic of the world — who’s cheating, who’s in a relationship, what’s happening, who’s doing what, who’s with who.”
Asked why people seemed so fascinated in the personal lives of the famous, he replied: “A lot of people are running from their hard truths.”
Raymond v. Raymond topped the U.S. album chart on its release and the single “OMG” reached No. 1 in Britain. The album is available in Britain from April 26.
Usher’s last three albums have hit the top spot in the U.S. market, although sales figures show that “Confessions” was by far his most successful record selling 10 million copies there.
Raymond v. Raymond sold 329,000 copies in the United States in its first week, versus around 440,000 for Here I Stand, partly reflecting a shrinking market for album sales worldwide.
Usher believes that the digital revolution, allowing people to listen to music for free online and download it illegally, was a major factor.
“Had we not had this issue with record sales distribution, downloads, pirating, and illegal downloads, I’d say that would have been equivalent to about 800,000 to maybe close to a million in the first week,” he said.
Usher criticized record labels for failing to keep up with technology, and has started his own record company.
“I say taking ownership of our masters, having a lot more control of our music creatively, I think all of those are indications that there is a standard that can be changed,” he said. “Or maybe there is something we’re not thinking to do.”
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato